I thought I would continue this month’s blog looking at spirituality and health, emotional healing, and self-empowerment through the metaphor of Eastern spiritual traditions. Last month, we looked at spirituality and health, emotional healing and self-empowerment. We were also able to discuss coping with grief and loss and dealing with stress and anxiety through Buddhist attention paid to Body, Speech, and Mind. We looked at how we can bring consciousness to the ways we use Body, Speech, and Mind and how to align ourselves with spirituality and health, emotional healing, and self-empowerment. In other words, it’s good to take inventory and consider are we using Body, Speech, and Mind for ourselves or against ourselves?
Hopefully, you found this helpful in learning how to deal with the stress and anxiety brought about by things like the holiday season, COVID-19, or the tumultuous political situation at present. In terms of self-empowerment, remember that it is you who has the power to use your Body, Speech, and Mind for your benefit and the upliftment of others and it is you who hold the power to choose what you put into your Body, Speech, and Mind. We cannot control the world around us but, we can align with the positive intention we have for ourselves and move towards unconditional self-acceptance of what we can control and what we cannot.
Continuing with the psychology that comes out of the spiritual traditions of the Indian subcontinent, whether it’s from atheistic systems such as Buddhism and Jainism or theistic systems such as some schools of Hinduism, these traditions focus on realizing the inner Self. These traditions also encourage seeing the divinity within the creation and in spite of the myriad differences, all these schools of thought have one thing in common: the taking of refuge.
My goal in using this theme is not cultural appropriation, but to develop a way to sustain ourselves as we learn to cope with grief and loss, loss of political solidarity, and loss of physical and social closeness to others. As a result of increased isolation due to quarantine and social distancing, these problems are more common and the goal is to move toward emotional healing rather than being beaten down by the winds of change. In the spirit of exploring psychology through Eastern metaphor, let’s adapt the taking of refuge to our own sources of strength, sources of unconditional self-acceptance, and sources of spirituality and health, and emotional healing. Let’s build our reservoir of inner resources to sustain us in the winters of the soul.
Traditionally, the refuges are adapted to each particular spiritual school. For example, the three refuges usually take some form of this:
- I take refuge in Enlightened One
- I take refuge in the Truth
- I take refuge in the Community of Seekers.
I particularly like the world-renowned Buddhist scholar, Robert Thurman’s translation and expansion of the refuges for a modern world where he works to bring people of all traditions together in his service to the Dalai Lama’s mission through Tibet House in NYC. Dr. Thurman often uses the word “Archetype” or “Mentor” for Enlightened One, Guru, or Divinity in the first refuge. Who is the One person I imagine feeling unconditional self-acceptance from and for? So ask yourself:
How do I take refuge in the One who embodies My Highest Ideal?
- Who is this for you?
- Who are you mentors, idols, and guides in the past, present, or future?
- Have you thought about how you can take refuge in the Ideal One who aspires to be?
- Can you make a concrete action to symbolize this for yourself?
How do I take refuge in my Truth?
- What is my Truth?
- What values do I live my life by?
- Do I take refuge in media spin, social media influencers, politicians more than my own truth and what effect does this have on my life?
- How can I take refuge in what I know standing up forgives my life meaning and thus gives me strength?
How do I take refuge in the Community?
- Do I take refuge in the wrong people?
- Do the people I spend time with uplift me?
- Does my community bring me down?
- Traditionally this refers to the company of the Truth, the company of seekers, or the company of saints; with the idea being that we become like those with whom we keep company. If we can’t expect to become better, more whole, more aligned to our truth and our ideals and ideal mentors if we immerse ourselves in a pit of bad company.
- Can I create a group of people with the same Ideal, the same Values, Seeking the same Truths, who can uplift each other according to these principles I most want?
I take Refuge in the Ideal; I take refuge in the Truth; I take Refuge in the Community.